The Columbia River boys soccer team is 8-0, and the Rapids have outscored their opponents 41-0 so far this season.
But talk to the players, and they won’t recount any of those eight victories.
The first game that comes to their memory is the 2-1 loss to Tumwater last May in the 2A district championship game.
“Coming off a hard loss against Tumwater and remembering that pain in the final moments, we’re just applying that to always work hard, always get back to work, no matter what,” senior Joshua Hamilton said.
To anyone impressed with River’s undefeated start, the Rapids will remind you they were undefeated last spring, allowing just four goals all season.
That was all before the loss to Tumwater.
“Last season was a weird year where you played everyone once, then you have a district playoff,” senior Logan Simmons said. “But having state this year, I know all of us our motivated to make the most of this season and make a run.”
Columbia River has developed into a state power in boys soccer since moving to Class 2A.
After reaching the first round of state in 2017, River won the 2A state title in 2018 and was a state runner-up in 2019.
Then the 2020 season was wiped away and 2021 ended without a state tournament, leaving a void for the River players.
“They’ve kind of lost two years of soccer,” River coach Filomon Afenegus said. “So they are so hungry to have the opportunity to try to make a run as far as we possibly can. They are super motivated to make up for lost time.”
The Rapids didn’t want to wait around for the first official day of spring practice to get to know each other. Several senior players organized preseason get-togethers to “play soccer, have some fun and get to know each other,” as Simmons said.
And that has made Afenegus’ job much easier.
“This is a great group of kids and extremely coachable,” Afenegus said. “I’ve just been so impressed with how coachable they are. They’ve picked up on everything that we wanted them to pick up at a very fast clip. They are jelling a little earlier than they usually do.”
Senior Alex Brown said: “I think a big part of that is the kickarounds we had before the season. We were really just having fun together because the most important part is just having fun.”
Junior Alexander Harris leads the team with 13 goals and seven assists, and Brown has added 10 goals and seven assists. But really those results are a culmination of contributions from all over the pitch.
“Honestly, it just comes down to their nature,” Afenegus said. “They’re all really selfless kids. There’s not a lot of ego out here. It’s about what best for the team. Some of them are playing different roles or playing different positions than they normally would for their club teams. Everyone has been willing to buy in to what we’re doing, and it’s starting to bear fruit.”
Hamilton said playing with the River team has played a big role in helping all the players fight through the struggles of the pandemic.
“Getting a lot stripped from us, whether it’s soccer or school or having emotional effects on us, it’s really helped us to be a family, as a team,” he said.
And that, as much as anything, keeps the Rapids motivated going forward.
“It doesn’t change anything who we play, where we play, when we play, we need to do what we do, play our game and take care of business,” Hamilton said. “And the reason we do it is we do it for family. Fight for each other, fight wars for each other.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.